Last Updated on 23, August 2015
There are many investment seminars and courses being conducted. You will see such advertisements in the newspaper. Very often, these courses promise the attendees high investment returns if they follow the technique taught by the trainers. Most of these trainers are unregulated and do not have a license from Monetary Authority of Singapore to give financial advice. I decided to write a letter to the Straits Times.
The following letter was published in Straits Times forum page on 27 May 2014:
A SINGAPOREAN has been accused of acting as a real estate agent even though she has no licence ("Unlicensed property agent faces charges"; last Thursday).
She allegedly sold foreign properties to people who attended a free property investment seminar and paid two-day investment course.
This method is similar to the one used by trainers at investment seminars on foreign exchange and stock trading. Some of these trainers are not qualified and often promise unrealistic returns.
Under the Financial Advisers Act, those giving investment advice are required to be licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The Act does not say investment advice can be given only through face-to-face meetings. In this modern age, investment advice can also be given through other avenues such as social media, blogs and seminars.
It is puzzling that investment advice given through seminars is not regulated when the Act mandates such regulation.
Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam brought up the same issue in Parliament last year ("Tighter rules for financial courses"; Feb 7, 2013). The response was that MAS would look into tightening the rules for financial product courses, to enhance protection for consumers.
More than a year has passed since then and investment seminars continue to be unregulated.
Without proper regulation, the public risks making unsuitable investment decisions. Moreover, people do not have any recourse, such as raising the matter to the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre, since they are not dealing with regulated financial institutions.
MAS replied to my letter on 2 June 2014:
Beware those offering financial advice without a licence
MR WILFRED Ling correctly pointed out in his letter last Tuesday ("Regulate investment seminars") that under the Financial Advisers Act (FAA), persons providing financial advice on investment products, such as stocks or foreign exchange, will need to be licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The licensing requirement applies, regardless of the mode or medium through which the financial advice is given.
If financial advice is provided under the guise of educational training, the training provider would be guilty of committing an offence under the FAA if it does not hold a valid licence.
Consumers who come across persons providing financial advice on stocks and other investment products without a licence should report the matter to the MAS.
Consumers who sign up for investment seminars should be wary of promises of high returns that seem too good to be true. MAS is working closely with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore to instil more responsible advertising practices among such investment course providers.
To help consumers, MAS will continue to step up its financial education efforts.
Through MoneySense, the national financial education programme, MAS has cautioned consumers on such investment seminars through various channels, including newspaper articles, radio programmes, social media and educational seminars.
To further emphasise the need to exercise caution, consumer alerts are issued to highlight the pitfalls of dealing with unregulated persons, and to advise consumers to conduct independent checks to establish the credibility of claims made by training providers.
Merlyn Ee (Ms)
(Strategic Planning & Communications)
Monetary Authority of Singapore
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